The Q&A Archives: Aloe Tragedy

Question: My mother grew this very large aloe plant (~ 20-25 inches tall) in a pot with another larger aloe and lots and lots of baby aloes. She gave me this aloe, and it did great for awhile. I repotted it in a pot just a little larger than the one it was in, and in special cactus dirt that drains well, but gets hard as it drys. The aloe sits on my plant stand under florescent lighting 12-16 hours a day. I water it when the soil is dry about an inch or so deep. It did fine for 2-3 months, then started leaning over. I tied it lightly with twine to a small plastic trellis. About 3-4 months later I came home and the plant was literally laying on its side. I repotted it in new cactus dirt, and the roots looked white and healthy. The bottom leaves were dried and crinkled, so I cut them off and planted the aloe deeper than it had been because the stalk at the bottom of the plant was smaller than the stalk from the middle and on up. The tap-root was very large, but the smaller roots were very small. The leaves at the bottom dried and shrivelled again. I repotted again, to check the roots, and to put it in a smaller pot so it could get pot-bound. It looks like it is dying at the bottom, but it had a baby under the dirt! The middle and top look healthy, except for very small black areas. These black areas don't seem to be affecting anything. I also have some babies from the other aloe plant, and they are doing pretty much the same thing, except for making babies. I bought an aloe at Walmart, and it is doing the same thing. What am I doing wrong? My mother's aloe is still in a very, very small pot, and has grown so much that it bent over, climbed out of the pot, then started growing upward again. It's huge! Please help! I'd like to save my aloe, but I'm at at loss.

Thanks for your time.

Answer: Sounds like a root rot problem to me. A fast-draining soil is a must, but aloes don't grow much in the winter and do not need watering for most of the winter season. Sounds to me as though you're basing your decision to water on soil conditions rather than the plant's growth habit. The kindest thing you can do for your plant is to stop watering - for now. When the plant resumes growth in the spring, you can resume watering. Thoroughly soak the soil when you water, then allow it to almost completely dry out. Best of luck with your aloe plants!

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